On illness and being unreliable…

“I’m a very loyal and unreliable friend.” ~ Bono

One of the issues you need to deal with when you or a family member lives with chronic illness is your unreliability factor.

When I speak of chronic illness, I am talking about any condition that lasts for more than a few weeks, that doesn’t conform to a normal healing arc, or a condition that cycles into more active or less active phases.  The condition could be a physical affliction, a mental illness or a combination of these.  For whatever reason the presence of this thing in your life means that there is always a possibility that your plans, no matter what your intentions, may go awry.

Depression makes it impossible for you to get out the front door, irritable bowel means you don’t dare go to that intimate dinner party with the people you don’t know very well, a sudden infection or a flare up for you, your partner or your child and you’re back at the doctors, back on medication, back in bed…

Sick child - image from www.bloggingdad.com

Sick child – image from www.bloggingdad.com

Too often over the years, mine has been the empty chair at the dining table, the empty bed at the retreat, the face missing from the ‘family event’ photograph.

I don’t enjoy letting people down, or being unreliable, so over time I have accepted fewer invitations and my world has shrunk small.  Talk to anyone with a long term health issue and as much as they may seize the day, they often don’t know until they wake up whether the day will be a good one or not – so they become champions of winging it and making the best of those times when they feel strong, positive and with some charge in their battery.

One thing I have come to understand is that you need to have a few friends or family who know what’s going on, who are on your side, and who can cope with last minute invitations or cancellations.

Yesterday I was running on not much sleep, and it was in fact not the greatest of days.  But I had promised to meet a friend for breakfast. She has her health issues too. She understands.  We often text each other at the very last minute to cancel a meet-up, but we do everything we can to get there. We’ve also connected at very short notice, because both of us feel up to it, and why waste a moment?

I’ve caught up with Carly when she’s had an IV line hanging out of her neck, when I’ve been on my way to or home from hospital, and when both of us have felt very much less than glamorous.

Illness has taught me something important.  Friendship is more important that looking fantastic as you head out the front door. Connection is worth more than self doubt. And laughing and being with people you care about, and who care about you, is the very best of medicine.

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Today, both of us are heading back to doctors to have scans and more medical appointments.  Both of us have heads full of wondering what’s going on ‘inside’.

And both of us are unreliable. Not because we want to be.  Not because we are casual about commitment, or how much we care about you.

We are unreliable because our bodies run their own agendas, and we really have no idea how things might look from day to day.

We’ve learned that the cost of ‘making the effort’ to engage can sometimes be too high, and we’ll keep paying for days…

If you’re in the Unreliable Club, I’m sending you lots of love, and I want to remind you that it’s worth trying to make that connection, but that the bottom line is you ALWAYS need to honour your body, and your intuition around situations and relationships.

If you are friends or family of someone with a chronic health issue, I ask that you keep loving them, keep reaching out, and do your best to make sure they don’t end up alone and socially isolated.

One of the greatest tragedies of chronic illness is that so many people end up alone, with no support network. And when we have no one to care about us, and life is so hard, some people give up altogether.

Life is fragile, and we are all vulnerable. Let’s do our best to look after each other, to stay connected, and to live life the best we can with every breath.

friendship-quotes-The-sincere-friends-quotes

26 thoughts on “On illness and being unreliable…

  1. What a beautiful photo Nicole. You can see your love for each other.when I had Dengue Fever, I was all alone. No one came to visit, I had to do it on my own. I had to cancel apps, couldn’t go places but to have a support network is just so important when you are unwell. I’m so happy that you both have each other. Sending love xx

  2. Thank you, Nicole for reminding me of the fragility that is life and the empowerment of friendship…xxxooo

  3. Reblogged this on Julie Catherine and commented:
    An excellent post by Nicole at Cauldrons And Cupcakes – I relate to this so much on so many levels, as I am one of the “unreliable” ones due to my multiple health issues. Great post and a “must read” for those dealing with chronic illness, and for those who love us. Thank you, Nicole!

    • Nicole, I just had to share this awesome post, and reblogged it also – it could have been written for me, as I also belong to the “unreliable” group. Thanks so much for this! Sending you lots of love and gentle hugs! ~ Julie xoxox

  4. That is a gorgeous pic of the pair. It is positively glowing. Fantastic post. I’ve learnt the too-often hard way to stop pushing but it’s hard. Flipside, is I understand and can be there for my friends who have this challenge.

  5. Thank you for this today as I couldn’t make it to a friend’s b-day/cinco de mayo party earlier due to my hypersensitivities. In the past, I would have just “sucked it up” and suffered through the experience so others were happy. Not today. There was cajoling and begging but my self-care came first. I have a difficult time being around loud, drunk, perfumy people on the best of days, it is downright painful on my flare-up days. So here’s to self-care, self-love and finding special souls who get it!

  6. Isn’t it wonderful that we can have unreliable lives and still find a way to create, connect, and find support via the internet? The blogging world is patient and conforms to our schedules. It waits for times when we can and can be ignored in times when we can’t. Thanks for continuing to publish your blog. Congratulations on 500,000 hits. That’s terrific!

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  8. Thank you again Nicole, for another beautiful post. I’m going to send this to a couple of special friends of mine, to show them I understand what they are going through and to thank them for understanding what I am going through – and we all understand what you are going through! x

  9. I love this post. I’m actually too afraid to make plans anymore because of my unreliable body. But it’s true, there are those friends that “get it.”
    Beautifully written. Nice to know others are frustrated by it too.

  10. Oh, I can certainly relate. But I don’t think unreliable is the right word here – that implies some element of laziness or disregard that you obviously don’t possess.

    I used to have a little Chinese scroll calendar that I got for free where I buy my veggies, and it said something on it like “Be anticipated and durable.” I think that’s more like you – you’re anticipated because people hope you’ll be able to show up, and durable because sometimes you do, despite how challenging your life is. That’s not so bad. 🙂

  11. Dearest… you are always “on point” when it comes to reminding us what “living” is all about. And how to enjoy each moment we are blessed with. Much love and many blessings to you.

  12. Dear Nicole Lovely photo of yourself and Carly what a beautiful girl she is..in facebook parlance a stunner (a fighter too which I admire hugely go Carly)….and on being ill and unreliable…you post every day and that is very reliable I think. Maybe its part of a shift where we can be virtual friends (by we I mean all subsribers\followers) without the limitations imposed on us by health, distance or the infamous bad hair day…so we can be more of who we are and more than the limits perscribed on us by our physical body or circumstances on a particular day but with honesty. You are very honest about your difficulties as well as your gifts..I commend you for that.. because like a paper not refusing ink the internet does not refuse bu!* s*!t. The prevalence of b\s is mind boggeling..and the prevalence of new age theories and in buisness the all singing all dancing hugely inflated ego’s.(The make a million in 4 days, whilst having perfect teeth, a six pack perfect abs and a very functional vegatable slicer thing!) anyway Nicole am wandering off point…soul and a compassionate heart are reliable good days bad days..even on bad health days.in blogging and relating what is most reliable is integrity (the soul and compassionte heart) you have that and its emmimently reliable and induces trust. so

    myou are always reliable. ..sending much much love. xxxxxx

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